by Brian J. Audette
We’re fast approaching voter registration deadlines for many states. In this election year, the stakes are high and the chances are even higher of people being turned away at the polls for bogus or Trumped up (capitalized on purpose) reasons and where the specter of foreign election tampering hangs like a sickly smog in the air. These aren’t just issues for now though. Increasingly they’re becoming the norm in our society and so more than ever, voting rights need to be expanded and protected.
To that end, music distribution and streaming service Bandcamp has chosen to ally with Voting Rights Project this Friday, September 28th, and donate 100% of their cut from all sales to that organization. While OVRLD gives you plenty of local music to find on Bandcamp (and elsewhere) on a regular basis, I thought it would be a good idea on this day to highlight several of our more socio-politically leaning bands for you to consider supporting today.
When BLXPLTN burst onto the scene a few years back, they immediately set themselves apart as a singular, unique group with both their sound and sensibilities. BLXPLTN’s music draws variously from classic hardcore punk, old school hip hop, post punk, and industrial to carve out a unique Afropunk niche. Lyrically the band is relentless and unapologetic, often tapping into the cultural id of the oppressed through songs like “Start Fires”, “Stop & Frisk”, and “How Many Shots.” The end result is a powerful and ear-catching catalog that doesn’t quite sound like anything you’ve ever heard before, but in the best possible way.
Mobley’s music is so much more than it seems at first blush. Just beneath the surface of the slick production and pop sensibility seethes a soul seeking purpose. Mobley describes his latest release Fresh Lies Vol. 1 as the beginning of a song cycle exploring “themes of nationhood and identity and alienation.” It may not be apparent on first listen, but the deeper you go, the more layers emerge. Mobley has always been a talented producer and musician, but his subtle lyrical skill really shines through on Fresh Lies Vol 1, giving voice to the questions, isolation, and anguish of a tumultuous modern society.
I’ve only recently come to know Third Root, but as I’ve begun exploring their back catalog I’ve found them to be one of the most message-heavy acts around and danceably so at that. Stylistically Third Root tap that rich A Tribe Called Quest vein for me, mixing laid back beats and soul loops with thoughtful lyrics, slick production, and tight vocals. Message-wise Third Root go straight for the myriad of issues facing people of color in the United States with a goal of promoting community, discussion, healing, growth, and ultimately justice.
The Capitalist Kids have been Austin’s premiere political punks for nearly a decade. Whether taking on Ayn Rand, lambasting corporate bailouts, or skewering gender bias, The Capitalist Kids have always thrown in a decent helping of liberal ideology along with their pop punk love songs. With a tight, clean punk sound recalling the likes of Screeching Weasel and Bad Religion, The Capitalist Kids play fast and loud and usually keep their tongues firmly in their cheeks while waxing political. Sarcasm is a tool used liberally by the Kids on songs like “Let’s Go Waterboarding” and “Never Fear, Capitalism is Here!”, but it only serves to further punctuate their lyrical satire and paint as absurd their worthy targets.
East Cameron Folkcore
While it’s been a couple of years since we’ve heard from them, the majority of East Cameron Folkcore‘s catalog remains steeped in sociopolitical takes. From For Sale‘s opening salvo in the form of the wealth redistribution anthem “Robin Hoods Rise” to “Director’s Cut”’s lament for the rollercoaster ride nature of modern society, to the entirety of Kingdom of Fear tackling everything from gentrification to fracking, ECF aren’t afraid to get into it. The band’s folk family foundation gives their music a homegrown, grassroots feel while their biting lyrics and punk rock intensity has honed their songs into a blade of truth and justice for the downtrodden in dark times.
Blastfamous USA are another hip hop group with a message, but one that’s realized through a more modern sound and a more aggressive style. Eschewing easy soul for brutal intensity, BUSA rep a beat-heavy sound laced with venomous vocals that spit a lyrical onslaught of revolution and disgust with the status quo. BUSA’s music is meant to challenge and mobilize. It’s an air horn blast in the face of conformity and a wake up call to anyone willing to simply sit around and wait for things to change.
Blink and you’ll miss it, but behind the frenzied, fast guitars and Jawbreaker-esque vocal growl, The Reeks have a thing or two to say. Though they do so more subtly than most and their breakneck fast, rarely repetitive songs leave little time for second takes, lyrically The Reeks are making small jabs at subjects ranging from gentrification to white male privilege in their self titled debut. There’s plenty of punk rock angst to be found as well, but that extra layer of awareness makes this a little more than your average punk record in 2018.
Austin’s queercore scene has put out some of the best pure punk rock in years and Popper Burns sit squarely atop that mountain in my opinion. Strikingly minimalist and sinfully provocative, Popper Burns churn out a unique brand of greasy, back room porn punk, full of sex, drugs, and gender fluidity. Whether proclaiming their need for some “Vitamin D” (not the kind in Milk), lamenting “Body Issues”, or challenging sexual conservatives with their own naughty thoughts in “Closet Queen”, Popper Burns lilt, sway, swagger, and tease in truely subversive ways. Are you punk enough?
Though they’ve recently gone on what may be an indefinite hiatus, Us Weekly didn’t leave without first dropping their most woke album to date. Lyrically, their self titled LP is out for blood and packing a mean left hook for the status quo. Songs like “American Piss” anthemically admonish political bystanders and conservative profiteers, while “New Obsession” explores the scary realities faced daily by women both in the real world and online. It’s subversive, edgy without trying to be hip, and woke as fuck. In the age of Trump, so-called “men’s rights activists,” corporate cronyism, and actual goddamn Nazi’s, this is the kind of album we need.